When Did You Last Share a Story?

Article excerpt

Byline: CLAIRE MALCOLM

TELLING stories and reading is good for us. Research has shown that reading novels can help to alleviate depression and good literacy is one of the key life skills that helps to ensure that we achieve well in the workplace, participate fully in society and stay clear of a life of crime.

The North East has some of the lowest literacy rates in the country and as a region we buy less books than many others, but as with all gloomy statistics there is a counterbalance: the growth of reading groups.

And across the North East new groups are springing up like mushrooms everywhere you look.

The phenomena of reading groups originated in the US where it is believed that they grew out of the early feminist conscious raising groups which moved from reading outright political texts to discussing fiction. It's easy to see why this progression took place: fiction allows nuance and emotional responses in a way that non-fiction doesn't often offer.

Book groups seemed to arrive in the United Kingdom somewhere around the time of the publication of Captain Correlli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres in the early 1990s. This period was a boom time for literary publishing; advances were high, Waterstones had transformed how we bought books and reading literary fiction seemed to suddenly have a new allure.

Being in a reading group was suddenly de-rigour for the upwardly aspiring. It still is, but those private social reading groups have been joined by a new breed of groups that meet in pubs, bars, libraries, cafes and historic buildings and in some enlightened businesses.

As bookselling is transformed from a browsing occupation that happens on the high street to an internet-only activity (if you want to still browse in the future, start buying books on the high street now as those sellers desperately need your support), the route to finding out what to read next becomes trickier. …